Queer Instagram Account Accused of Mishandling Donations

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday August 12, 2020

Queer Appalachia
Queer Appalachia  (Source:Queer Appalachia / Instagram)

Last week, in an investigative report by the Washington Post, a former volunteer for the popular Instagram account Queer Appalachia accused the organization of mishandling donations.

Queer Appalachia, not an official nonprofit, highlights LGBTQ+ people and life in the South — self-described as a "celebration of queer voices and identities" — often holding charitable drives and fundraisers.

In the Washington Post report, the former volunteer — identified only as Leo — alleges that the group's founder, Mamone, might have used monetary donations for personal use and that charitable events, NBC News states, "had little to show in terms of recipients of funds and goods."

Particularly striking, Leo alleges that after the organization received a $300,000 grant, Mamone bought a new truck with:

"every bell and whistle... there was no transparency on where the money to buy this brand-new truck came from. I just thought it was such a 'f--- you' to all of the people, the poor and working-class people who had given their money [to Queer Appalachia] without really understanding or know where it was going."

NBC News states that there appears to be no evidence at this point that Queer Appalachia misused donations to buy the truck.

After the Washington Post article was published, Queer Appalachia posted a statement to Instagram calling it a "poorly written hit piece" by an author, "a known harasser," connected to Mamone's ex. NBC reports that the author, Emma Copley Eisenberg, declined to comment.

In a statement to NBC News last week, Mamone stated:

"Queer Appalachia has grown quickly, we haven't taken the time to prioritize financial illiteracy and getting the books in order as it should have been done... We are working to correct this by hiring a CPA and putting out financial summaries to show our community where the money has gone. QA is also working to bring on BIPOC [Black, indigenous and people of color] leadership and address some of the specific issues of harm caused in the coming days."

In posts since, Queer Appalachia has vowed to address calls for accountability and transparency. It also appears as though the organization might be under new leadership, as a posting four days ago indicates:

And another post that suggests calls for accountability might have come from BIPOC who were blocked afterward:

As NBC News reports, the best way to make certain donations end up in the hands of people in need is to research organizations that solicit help. Candid, a clearinghouse for nonprofit information, provides a tool for researching and verifying the work of nonprofits. Adia Colar, a spokesperson for Candid, explained in an email to NBC:

"It's important to do due diligence—to give with your head as well as your heart... Don't just rely on a nonprofit's name, how popular it is, or how it tugs at your heartstrings. Research the organization's mission, results, transparency, and leadership to find out if it actually uplifts small, Black, and woman-owned LGBTQ nonprofits."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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